Over the last seven years working between StreetWise and the Franciscan Outreach Program I’ve been volunteering, doing my time and helping people; I’m doing what I can. StreetWise has changed my life from where I came from. I used to fight with people, just to fight with them. I’ve been taught how to teach people how to do something to help them. It makes me happy.
With me becoming head cook at the Outreach I can teach the volunteers that come in how to cook. Most people are used to cooking for maybe 1, 2, 3 people but I got to do it for 120 and still make it taste good. So it’s not very easy. I’ve been cooking all my life. I’ve raised two kids and my family on my cooking. I grill chicken, hot dogs, brats, whatever they want me to cook up. I don’t know of any soup kitchens that do grilling, or fried chicken or make their own catfish. If we’ve got it, I’ll cook it. I’ve been there seven years like StreetWise. I got connected with them when I came to the city. I went right to their shelter and they gave me housing.
I didn’t know about StreetWise until six months later when I saw someone working and making money. I was shaking a cup. I asked him, “how do I that?” That’s how I got into this.
The furthest back that I can remember is I started in Maywood. I spent 25 years in Joliet, got married, had a kid, and now I’m in Chicago. I recruit now so I can help people. My advice to someone just starting out with StreetWise is to keep your head up, work hard and try to keep focused on your goals. If you want to do something, you can get it done. I used to be a drug addict, I quit on my own and look at me now. I’ve got people that depend on me and I sell magazines. My customers know all about me. I talk to them on my corner. They know I’ve got a side job working construction and I’m trying to make some extra money to pay my bills. I don’t hide nothing from nobody. If a vendor needs help, all they need to do is ask. There are a lot of good people out there. Two years ago, I moved and it was so hot I couldn’t sleep at night. I told one of my customers who went right to the ATM and pulled out $200, handed it me and I got an air conditioner. You never know who you’re talking to, who can bless you or who wants to bless you. If they believe you and know you are trying to do well, like I’ve been trying to do, they are more willing to help. There are a lot of really good people out there.